It has been a few years since I visited Beirut, but it is a city once seen never forgotten. Nestled at the crossroads between three continents and with a history that dates back over 5,000 years, it has the remnants of Ottoman, Mamluke, Abbasid, Byzantine, Roman, Persian, Phoenician and Canaanite dynasties under its downtown area. The combination of the most beautiful and fashionable people in the Middle East, the best cuisine and the most vibrant nightlife and beaches on the Mediterranean make Beirut a city very hard to beat. The weather is gorgeous: sunny and warm with lovely trade winds and clean taxis (mostly Mercedes) with taxi drivers that are educated and fluent in English, French and Arabic. How can anyone top that combination? Add to that the fact that it reminds most people of the South of France without the costliness, the dollar actually takes you quite far here.
The definitive hotels: If you want the 5 star resort experience there is nothing better than the Phoenician Intercontinental by the Corniche. It is comfortable, luxurious and very much a grand Mediterranean resort in the middle of the city, with a state of the art gym and the glitziest weddings in the evening. I have stayed there many times with my kids and have never been disappointed. However the hotel that is Tres Charmante is of course the Albergo in Ashrafiyeh, the old downtown area of Beirut, with its magical old school roof garden, opulent turn of the century Parisian public areas and intimate dining spaces.
The vast array of historical sites is unmatched in Beirut. There is no avoiding them and you will actually see how well history weaves into everyday modern life, a lot like it does in Rome. Appropriately enough, don't miss the tour of the Roman ruins in the Solidere area.
The beaches are very tempting with the deep blue Mediterranean and the fabulous amenities that are available to everyone for the cost of a ticket at one of the many clubs like Eddie Sands or La Guava, offering pristine showers and changing rooms, massage options, chaise lounges and umbrellas, great DJs and wonderful food. The shopping/walking area is not to be missed either with the large, open air shopping areas of L'Etoile featuring world class designer wares and more sidewalk cafes than Paris itself.
As for nightlife, the options are endless. Beirut has a club for whichever genre of music takes your fancy. Whether trance and electro with BO 18; Rock and R and B with Zinc, which is housed in the most beautiful Italianate villa where everybody dances on the tables; or Arabic with Jemayzeh, where people drink, eat and dance to said Arabic music. Add to that the fact that the last time I was there Paul Oakenfold was playing a rave and Blondie was on tour as well.
The charming Bliss Street area is home to the world class campus of the American University in Beirut, which is beautifully landscaped and has one of the most gorgeous views in the world. It's fun to see young fashionable Lebanese students hurrying to their classes and hanging out at the different cafes. My favorite of course is the Bliss House café which makes the most delicious fruit salad with honey and fresh cream that I have ever tasted in my life. It left such a good taste in my mouth that I keep wanting to go back to Beirut for more.